A Gentle Ode to All the Baby Accessories Designed to Look Like Military Gear

Lillian Rose Military Daddy Diaper Bag
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Lillian Rose/Amazon.

The Wall Street Journal reports this week on the trend of baby accessories disguised as military gear. These diaper bags and carriers boast all the functions a modern baby could ask for, from supportive straps to bottle pockets. Of course, this stuff isn’t really designed for mewling newborns but for something just as adorably fragile: the male ego.

To be fair, there is already plenty of baby gear touted as gender-neutral out there. Thanks in part to the rise of hands-on fathering, there’s a thriving market for, say, diaper bags that can be passed between mom and dad over the course of the week. But a unisex aesthetic usually means a particular brand of urban minimalism that may not be to every dad’s liking.
They are quietly stylish, which makes them—to a certain eye—quietly feminine.

Not so the new generation of supermasculine parenting accoutrements: “baby carriers that look like SWAT vests, camouflage diaper bags, and pacifiers attached to military-inspired carabiners,” as the Journal sums it up. One company founder boasts that he aims to serve “a market full of guys sick of diaper-bag emasculation.” The lede anecdote concerns a South Carolina man who has affixed a “shit happens” patch to his diaper bag and totes his child around in a baby carrier disguised as an armored vest. This is gear for the guy who wants to say, “I may have stuck around to care for my offspring, but I’m still a Man.”

However, I come not to bury the “tactical” baby carrier but to praise it. Is calling a small bag for dirty diapers a “dump pouch” ridiculous? Of course. Still, let’s not lose sight of the big picture: The existence of macho baby carriers and diaper bags means self-conceived macho men are wearing baby carriers and carrying diaper bags. Is it absurd to need to explicitly be told you are a manly man while you wipe your baby’s butt? Sure! But it’s way less silly and pathetic than believing, as our president does, that a man who changes diapers is acting “like the wife.”

It’s 2018, but parenting and mothering are still nearly synonymous in our culture. We live in a world in which dads are often said to be “babysitting” their own children, and headlines and advertisements default to addressing “moms” on kid-related topics. The default aesthetic for baby care still tilts toward pastels and florals. There’s nothing wrong with throwing a little camouflage in the mix. And when you think about it, parenthood is more like war than like a field full of bunnies anyway.